Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fields of Gold

Sometimes a song gets stuck in my head and I end up using it as a theme.  I was flipping around the channels and landed on an old Family Guy episode where they made fun of Sting, which brought to mind his song Fields of Gold.

Living in Bakersfield, and in the middle of our 4th Heat Wave of 100+ degree weather, most fields are gold; really brown. I decided I needed to do a sunset shoot and figured that the open spaces we have would make a fitting background.

Part of my decision to shoot at sunset was based on images created by other photographers, specifically Canon shooters.  There is something distinctly different about how the Canon Sensor renders colors.  So this shoot would allow me to showcase our lovely landscape and also provide me with some images I could tweak in an attempt to give them a "Canon" feel.

So you might think, "Why buy Nikon if you want your images to look like Canon?"  My response is, "Because I can?"  Seriously I have no definitive answer, aside from just plain curiosity.

Earlier in the week I helped Drew's friend Mystery photograph a friend of hers, and during the shoot she asked if we could work together, but with her in front of the camera.  We picked Sunday, which worked out since my buddy, Brian, had a shoot planned for Saturday using the same locale.

I met Brian at the location around 6:45 PM, Saturday, just as the sun was beginning it's descent, and took a couple "test" shots of Michaela.  All Manual settings and at times Manual Focus, too.  I believe the settings were f/1.8, 1/250, ISO 100, which was close enough to what I wanted; an overexposed image.

Fast forward to Sunday 6:45 PM, Brian came out with me to photograph Mystery in the 104 degree heat. I brought my 86" PLM with the Front Diffusion Panel, an Einstein 640WS Strobe, my Manfrotto Combi-Boom and a Vagabond II Battery.  As we were setting up the PLM, which has a Silver Reflective interior, we pointed it toward the setting sun.  As I walked across the front of the PLM, I could feel the heat being bounced off of it, WOW!!!  I could nuke a passing bird if I aimed it correctly.  We then covered it with the Diffusion panel which eliminated the heat and minimized the swaying due to the evening breeze.

I shot with Available light for the first 40 minutes and then switched on the Einstein Strobe for the dusk images.  I brought the Einstein strobe because it can go from Full Power down to 1/256th Power and as you have to work fast in keeping the balance between Flash and Ambient, you need to back off your Flash Power.

We finally called it quits after another 20 minutes, packed up the gear and headed home.  We were going to head Downtown for a theme change, but decided it was a school night and I was anxious to see if I achieved what I set out to do.

The images came out as I expected, a bit overexposed, but without any loss of detail.

I opened the images in my Photo Editing software, did my usual adjustments with the exception of adding two more steps, actually filters. One filter creates a brownish tone on the shadows and the other creates a yellowish tone on the highlights.  That was it, a quick shoot and quick editing.

What did I learn?
  • Work on Manual Focusing - the second image above is blurry because Auto Focus (A/F) struggles when facing into the sun and also because the subject was moving.  It's definitely a skill I used to have back in college, but have become reliant on A/F.
I'm okay with the results, not ecstatic by any means, but I had a fun time shooting with Mystery and trying to evoke a soft and dreamy feeling.  By the way, this was Mystery's first photo shoot and she did really well.  Hopefully we'll shoot together soon, but first I have a Boudoir shoot coming up at Studio in the RAW.

Thanks for reading my blog...

"So she took her love
For to gaze awhile
Upon the fields of barley
In his arms she fell as her hair came down
Among the fields of gold"

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Too Flashy

This past June, I blogged about focusing on using One Flash.  Well, my fellow KPA members wanted me to do a "demo/tutorial" of what I learned, so we (Brian, Rob and I) held a quick impromptu One Flash shoot after our monthly KPA meeting.

We had a very good turnout, shot until 9:30 PM. but we didn't have enough time to cover all the "ins and outs" of using a one flash set-up.  Personally, I was too busy working with the members that I didn't get to shoot, except for the image above.

About two weeks ago, a fellow photographer, Dan Spencer created a Group page on Facebook, called Kern County Models and Photographers, which is place for people to network.  It is a really good idea since I hate planning shoots when all I want to do is practice lighting.  Well last week, Rob, Brian and I (a.k.a Da BoyZ Klub) wanted to shoot some film and do more One Flash portraits.  So I posted a "call" for models and had five showed up.  We decided to shoot at a location called "The Bluffs", which overlooks the Kern River and Oil City, or Oildale.

All images were shot with my 85mm lens, SB-900 with 1/4 CTO Gel, 43" Brolly, and triggered with Pocket Wizards or Nikon CLS.  I didn't shoot any film, since we got started kinda late and during the early part of the shoot the park sprinklers went off.  It was fun, quick and we got some decent results.


Thanks to Dan for creating the Facebook Group, to the patient and wonderful models, Keisha, Lisa and Sam, and of course, my "Brothers from Different Mothers": Brian and Robert!!!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

To the Sea!!!

Teresa's Dad and Coura came for a quick visit this past week to escape the stifling summer heat.  The weather back in Bellefonte, PA was ninety-plus degrees, and combined with the humidity it was more like 114.  Although Bakersfield isn't much cooler, at least we aren't as humid and the forecast was mid to high nineties.  However, the forecast for the coast was high sixties to low seventies.

At age 14, Coura had never been to the ocean, not even as close as she lives to the East Coast.  We decided we'd go to Hearst Castle on Saturday and then Venice and Santa Monica on Sunday. Note: if you are spontaneous, like we are, be sure to buy your tickets for Hearst Castle ahead of time.  After driving two and a half hours we arrived to find out all tours were sold out.

We walked around the base area of Hearst Castle and then headed up the coast to the Elephant Seal Beach. I decided to use my Olympus 40mm - 150mm Telephoto lens to test the DOF on somewhat sunny days.

At first the seals blend in with the sand, but after a few seconds, you can see them breathe or throw more sand on themselves. Aside from the seals there really wasn't anything else interesting for a teenager to see, and she was cold, too.  So we headed back to Bakersfield after being on the coast for an hour.

 Sunday, I was able to talk my son, Drew, into going with us to Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier.  We had some fun shooting some new FACEBOOK Profile Pics for him.  All shot with my Olympus PEN and available light.  

Coura enjoyed the beach as we walked along the shore much more than the Boardwalk at Venice.  We headed over to 3rd Street Promenade and then down to the pier.  It was a typical Sunday at the beach. Hundreds of people as far as the eye could see and although I've lived in Bakersfield for 16 years, I still miss L.A.

Here are some of Drew's Profile pictures.  Oh well, at least he let me take pictures of him.

It was an enjoyable 68 degree, "Family" day on the coast.  Did I learn anything? No, this was just a day to document our quality time.  As the I Love Beer Dude said, "Peace Out!!!"

I Photograph Male Models, too?

My buddy Tim invited me to help out Doll Face Make-Up Artist Suzie Garcia build her business.  We were scheduled to shoot eight to ten female models and a few male models.  A majority of the photographers are guys, so the female models were very busy shooting, as I looked around the male models were waiting for their couples shoot with the ladies.

As you know, my portfolio is 90% women and the men that are in my "port" are usually friends or family.  So wanting to be an equal opportunity photographer, I asked the guys if they would be willing to work with me.  The guys went to find some wardrobe and I set-up my speedlights.  These images are pretty much bare flash triggered with Pocket Wizards and an occasional 22" beauty dish.

The pictures were taken around 3:00 PM, still a little too bright for direct sunlight, but working in the shade helped out.  The speedlights were all at full power, with the SB-900 occasionally overheating.  We shot for about an hour and then the guys had to leave for the themed sessions.

So What Did I Learn:
  • I really need to work with posing guys -  I really struggle with posing them and also .  I know what I like to see when I look at female models, their expression and their pose.  I try to go for sensual, playful, and flirtatious looks with the females, but with guys; I'm at a loss.
  • Buy some spare lighting accessories- I broke a couple cold shoes that work with my Pocket Wizards and also misplaced a couple umbrella swivel adapters and spigots.  Nothing worse then searching through my gear bag and coming up short.
 So that's my goal for the remainder of this year, Photograph Guys.  Not just any guys, I'll still have a criteria, just like the female models.  They need to have a certain look.

Believe it it or not, this image has the most "favorites" on my Flickr account with 12,477 and someone purchased three copies from my web-site.